The top two congressional Democrats, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have issued a joint statement chastising Attorney General William Barr, who, they say, “deliberately distorted significant portions” of the Mueller report, according to The Hill, after seeing the redacted report themselves, which, they say, “paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him.”
One major way in which Barr gave what many see as an inaccurate spin to the report in his four page summary and in his press conference, both of which came before the redacted report was made available to Congress and the public, was his saying that Mueller’s report reached no conclusion on obstruction and Barr then saying that his assessment was that no charges were applicable. What Mueller’s report actually does is to outline multiple instances of what could be considered obstruction, states that the report does not exonerate Trump, and then indicates that Congress has the role of determining how to move forward with those allegations. According to USA Today:
Mueller himself refrained from making a decision, in part, because he believed that he could not indict a sitting president. …The report contains no indication that Mueller expected Barr to swoop in and make the decision for him. Instead, it appears that Mueller was providing the proverbial road map for members of Congress to take up the matter of obstruction in impeachment proceedings if they so choose, taking steps to “preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.” Of course, Congress may still use the Mueller report as a road map for impeachment. Or Congress may calculate that the political cost of impeachment is too great and the likelihood of conviction too slim to make proceedings worth undertaking. Barr’s decision will make it a much steeper climb to convince Congress and the public that obstruction occurred.
Last June William Barr wrote a memo in which he argued that the legal argument in the obstruction investigation of Trump was “fatally flawed”, according to CNN, arguing that as the head of the executive branch, Trump has broad executive powers that would, Barr argued, allow Trump to do things like tell then-FBI Director James Comey not to proceed with investigating former national security director Michael Flynn and later firing Comey, potentially to thwart the Russia investigation, without those actions constituting obstruction. That memo, and similar comments Barr also made, appealing as they are to Trump and his administration, may in fact have contributed to Barr being chosen as the new Attorney General. So it is not a surprise that Barr would now argue there was no case for obstruction charges against Trump, but it is his misrepresentation of the Mueller report in this regard that is at issue and which has Democrats criticizing Barr. According to The Hill:
Democrats ripped into Attorney General William Barr on Friday, signaling he’ll be a focal point of their attacks on the Trump administration in the post-Mueller report world. The Democrats say Barr bungled the handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and that he has repeatedly sought to protect President Trump, contrasting his comments about what the report said with the actual text that was released on Thursday. …Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)…helped lead the Barr charge with her own terse statement about the Mueller report, issued jointly with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a joint statement. “But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading,” they continued, alleging that he “deliberately distorted significant portions” of the report.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on Friday issued a subpoena to get a copy of the full Mueller report, without redactions, by a deadline of May 1. That date is important, as it is one day before Attorney General Barr is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Nadler has also indicated, according to NBC News, that Robert Mueller himself is expected to testify before the committee by May 23. The Mueller report may be complete, but the considerations and investigations that branch from it are likely to be ongoing for some time.